Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

elvira mistress of the dark poster 1988 movie edie mcclurg cassandra peterson
3.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 3/10
Visuals: 3/10

Tries to be something fun and campy, so-bad-it-is-good

Camp approach leads to bad movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark

Studio:   New World Pictures

Genre(s):   Comedy/Horror

Release Date(s):   September 30, 1988

MPAA Rating:   PG-13

elvira mistress of the dark cassandra peterson daniel greene movie theater

There are a couple clever jokes…

Elvira (Cassandra Peterson) is down and out on her luck.  Quitting her job due to her new sexist boss, Elvira learns her luck could be turning around when a long lost Aunt Morgana leaves Elvira her house and prized cookbook.  Travelling to the small town in Massachusetts, Elvira becomes the target of the decency board led by Chastity Pariah (Edie McClurg).  When Elvira and her new boyfriend Bob Redding (Daniel Greene) discover the “cookbook” desperately wanted by Elvira’s great uncle Vincent Talbot (W. Morgan Sheppard) is actually a spell book, trouble is coming!

Directed by James Signorelli, Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark is a comedy horror film.  The movie was released to poor reviews and Cassandra Peterson was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actress.

Elvira was big in the 1980s.  Her syndicated Hollywood show and her “talents” had the character popping up all over the place.  The movie was a bust (joke not intended), but it still has some merits in its failure and what it attempted to do.

elvira mistress of the dark dinner scene cassandra peterson daniel greene monster

Cooking up laughs? Maybe not…

The problem with the movie is partially Elvira’s background.  Cassandra Peterson’s Elvira came up with the Groundlings in Los Angeles who also helped put out Pee-wee’s Playhouse and other sketch comedy.  It never was meant to be taken seriously and was always campy.  The level of camp however is much higher than most movies, and the plot had to equal that.  It does to some extent and there are some clever jokes, but mostly it falls flat.

I can’t say that Peterson can’t act because the character isn’t supposed to be acting.  She’s supposed to be obnoxious, crass, and loaded with “wink-wink” style double entendre lines that are punchy like a stand-up comedian…it doesn’t necessarily work well with a script or story.  Daniel Greene is a bland boyfriend, but I do always enjoy Edie McClurg (who was also in the Groundlings along with Lynne Marie Stewart, Tress MacNeille, John Paragon, Deryl Carroll, and Joseph Arias who appear in the film).  W. Morgan Sheppard is a very generic (intentionally) villain and his underlings are should have been more developed.

elvira mistress of the dark burning at stake cassandra peterson

That ring won’t save you from critics…

Visually the movie is very ’80s but it feels grounded in the ’80s so that is ok.  The character is meant to be a Valley Girl type character and her style and look fit it.  It is shot on the back lots of Warner Bros which is painfully obvious if you ever seen any movies shot there.

Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark is a movie that is so-bad-it-is-good.  It is also a disappointment because it just misses the mark of what it was trying to do.  It gets the spoof nature and it has that Mad Magazine feel to its comedy that sometimes can be clever, but often just goes for the base laugh.  Elvira:  Mistress of the Dark can be enjoyed for the laughs, but probably not all the laughs it hoped for.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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